Category Archives: HDR

Black & White

This dramatic black & white image presents a classical view of Yosemite National Park's Half Dome. (Bill Ferris)

This dramatic black & white image presents a classical view of Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome. (Bill Ferris)

The above HDR image of Yosemite National Park’s iconic Half Dome was originally shot in color but I prefer this black and white treatment. Black and white is sometimes better at conveying the timeless beauty of a landscape. This is one of those times.

Just about anyone who appreciates and enjoys landscape photography is familiar with Ansel Adams. Born in 1902, Adams’s creative eye and mastery of photographic technique allowed him to produce timeless images of the American west. Ansel Adams defined American landscape photography in the 20th Century. Many of his greatest works are black and white compositions of dramatic vistas. Adams’s, “Moon over Half Dome,” is an iconic American image.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing myself to Ansel Adams. However, like many landscape photographers, I am inspired by his work. My black and white Half Dome image is my own small tribute to a great photographer who showed that a well-composed image captured in the right light has the power to touch a person’s soul. Adams made that magical one-on-one connection countless times during his career. Every day, it is my goal to do the same. Produce an image that connects at some level with another person.

Black and white photography as an homage to the pantheon of early great photographers is one reason the genre has a special ability to convey something timeless about a subject. Another reason, is the symbolic nature of this technique.

 (Bill Ferris)

Years of neglect have stripped this ranch building to nothing but the frame. But that framework remains solid and strong, still resilient years after abandonment. (Bill Ferris)

Symbolism is a powerful thing. At least, it can be. This photo of an old ranch building is symbolic of issues related to the passage of time.

The building has been abandoned for years. The floor is pealing and disintegrated. Wall slats lie scattered about. It may have been well-used and central to ranching operations in years past. But today, this building stands forgotten and in disuse. In contrast–or possibly defiance–to its current state, the frame of the building appears to stand straight and strong. You almost get the impression the building is patiently waiting for a time when people will find value in and use of it, again.

This is representative of exactly what we feel as we age. We fear being abandoned, forgotten and lost in the shadows of history. We fear having a sound mind and stout heart, but being trapped in an aging shell that prevents us from being actively engaged with the world.

The abandoned building reflects reflects these themes. The structure was built for a purpose and, presumably, served that purpose, well, for some period of time. Like mortal man, no building lasts forever. Time and the forces of nature work on us. Just as a man can return to the earth from which he first arose, so too can a building disintegrate into nothing. However, to be abandoned is arguably worse than to be destroyed. If destroyed, there is at least a rationale for disuse. That which no longer exists cannot be used. However, to be capable of serving a useful purpose but to be abandoned, that is a terrible thing. It is the very definition of loneliness.

Black and white strips an image down to its bare essentials. Gone, are the aesthetic elements of color. Gone, is the photograph’s function as an objective document of the subject. All that remains are elemental qualities: brightness, contrast, tone, texture and composition. Black and white is elemental. It is symbolic…at least, it has that potential.

Get out and shoot.

Bill Ferris | August 2013



Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon National Park basks in the warm glow of sunrise on a mid-summer morning. It is amazing to me that places such as this, with its deeply rich natural hues, can be found on this earth. (Bill Ferris)

Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon National Park basks in the warm glow of sunrise on a mid-summer morning. It is amazing to me that places such as this, with its deeply rich natural hues, can be found on this earth. (Bill Ferris)

Too loud. Garish. Unnatural.

These are words some critics use in lamenting the presentation of bright, bold colors in high dynamic range (HDR) photography. Personally, I like richly saturated hues in my photos. That said, I acknowledge and respect your right to enjoy and celebrate the photographic styles that touch you. After all, photography is deeply personal. There should be room for a wide variety of perspectives and a multitude of forms of expression within the medium.

If asked to describe my HDR photographic style, I suppose the phrase I would choose is, deeply natural. It’s a simple phrase, just two words, but conveys far more about my taste in photography than meets the eye. I’ll begin with the second word, natural. I like my photos to have a natural appearance to them. A natural-looking image is inviting. It’s a whisper saying, step a little closer and have a good look. Natural is something you want to touch, to linger over and sit with. Natural welcomes a long visit.

To preserve that natural quality, I tend to back off on the depth of the processing…just a touch. I mean, let’s not kid around, my HDR is clearly HDR. It’s got that look but it also retains enough of the subject’s inherent beauty to have a natural look. It’s not landscape porn. It’s the landscape next door.

Which brings us back to the first word, deeply. As mentioned at the outset, I like deep rich hues in my photos. These aren’t colors as they appear to my eye. Rather, they’re the colors seen by my soul. When a scene touches and inspires me to pull out the camera and tripod, it comes alive in a way that goes well beyond what can be seen with the eye. It reaches deep inside. The details get a little sharper, the sky a little bluer, the colors brighter and richer.

Bryce Point at sunrise in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon National Park basks in the warm glow of sunrise on a mid-summer morning.

Bryce Canyon National Park is truly an American gem. What makes this place so magical are the amazing colors in the stone. They are both totally real and completely unnatural at the same time. For an HDR photographer, the unique quality of the color makes Bryce Canyon heaven on earth.

Occasionally, nature does the work for me. The gorgeous, slightly more intense than life quality comes baked into the scene. That above photograph is a perfect example. Those electric day glow colors are totally natural. Catching the early morning light, this is how Bryce Canyon looks. It’s more than the color of reflected light. It is as though the stone hoodoos and rock layers are powered by an inner rainbow glow.

Is it loud? Garish? Unnatural? Maybe so. But that is Bryce Canyon, one of the most unnatural looking wonders on the planet. Bryce Canyon is a place that has to be seen to be believed. It’s like candy to an HDR baby.

So, where is your naturally amazing wonder? Where do you go to find inspiration? Keep that thought in mind. Grab the car keys, and get out and shoot!

Bill Ferris | July 2013